The starting point for the Sagrada Familia was Gothic architecture, which Gaudí modified and improved on to offer a new architecture which, due to its originality, makes this temple unique.
The Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia is a church with a central nave flanked by four aisles, and transepts with a central nave flanked by two aisles, forming a Latin cross. The top of the cross is closed by the semi-circular apse. The basilica also has three monumental facades, each one representing one of the three crucial events of Christ’s existence: his birth (C/Marina); his Passion, Death and Resurrection (C/Sardenya); and his present and future Glory (C/Mallorca).
The design will be completed with four domed structures, some 40 metres high, sited at each corner: two sacristies on the northern side; and on the southern side the baptistery and the chapel of the Holy Sacrament and Penitence. These four constructions and the three facades will be linked by a wide, covered corridor, with a double wall, referred to as a cloister by Gaudí, which will insulate the central nave from noise from the street, and allow circulation from one building to another without the need to cross the main nave.
Gaudí’s plan was for a group of 18 towers: 12 shorter ones on the facades (bell towers which will be 100 metres high, representing the Apostles), and six taller ones in the centre in a pyramidal layout reflecting the hierarchy of their symbolism. Of these, the tallest will be the one above the central crossing, representing Jesus Christ, reaching 172.5 metres in height. It will be surrounded by four, slimmer, 135-metre-high towers representing the four Evangelists and their Gospels A further tower will cover the apse and will represent the Virgin Mary.
Gaudí wanted to construct a building that would make an impact on the skyline, but also show his respect for the work of God, which in his opinion should never be superseded by man: at 172.5 metres tall, the Sagrada Familia is one of the tallest religious buildings in the world but remains a few metres below the height of Montjuïc – the highest point in the municipality of Barcelona.